Ronnag Fragment 1
In recent times, two scholars from Redspire have come into possession of several pieces of a puzzle: pages chronicling the earlier years of a half-Orc fighter named Ronnag, whose association in the ongoing crisis remains unknown. Though his current whereabouts are a mystery, I believe these fragments may prove useful in tracking down our lost comrades. Read this carefully, Kedim. Like it or not, you’re in grave danger.
The first time a blade spoke to Ronnag, he was in a situation that would have broken most others. Sixteen colossal stone beasts of all stripes peered down into a vast bowl of sand, their shadows cast menacingly into the dirt by the afternoon sun. Foes poured forth from every entrance as the crowd erupted in a cheer that shook the very foundations of Redspire’s oldest and most popular venue.
The message wasn’t quite clear; there weren’t any words or voice to it. But what surprised the young half-Orc in the first place was that there was a message at all, soon as he loosed the unkempt blade from its leather scabbard. Earlier, he’d nearly made the mistake of asking his fellow combatants whether swords could ‘talk’, but he knew better; many of them had already bullied him enough that morning. Most of them were humans who cared little for halfbreeds, especially one about to reenact the Battle at Ondrem’s Folly.
What the blade did tell him, near as he could make of it, was dire. As the fighters walked towards the final gate, he began to feel something. His mind tried furiously to decode this unnatural premonition, but the only result was a sickening feeling in his gut. It’s just nervousness, he tried to tell himself. It’s just fear…
But he was never a good liar – certainly never to himself.
The gate flew open; in an instant, the warriors spilled out with crazed abandon. All the while, the blade’s message intensified. After Ronnag sprinted a few steps more, something clicked in his mind, and without hesitation he veered sharply right, breaking from his comrades and making him instantly visible to the crowd. At the arena’s outer edge, he spied a trap door, ajar yet nearly concealed by the sand. In a single motion, he flung it open wide and dove down a shallow ramp.
The enclosure inside was eerily silent once the heavy door slammed down again. Even the crowd could only be felt as a constant rumble that loosed the dirt from the dark ceilings. The young fighter’s hands were shaking – was he dreaming this? Had this really happened? The old blade in his hand was now just an ordinary thing of scratched metal and worn leather. Yet there was no question – it had beckoned him here. And though he briefly contemplated whatever punishment awaited him for this ostensibly crazed deviance, his mind was quickly drawn to something even more unnatural: no one else seemed to be in the room beyond the trap door. Even the torches lining the many corners and archways threatened to go out from disuse.
Ronnag, having seen parts of this area a few times prior, did not sheathe his blade. Something was very wrong here. The hypogeum was nearly always staffed, especially during an event. As he ventured through a passage into the corner of a large storeroom, he saw movement on the other side, and quickly crouched into the shadows.
“Of course I know that,” one voice snapped curtly. “There’s enough at stake without your carelessness.”
“Mine?” said another. “As I recall, it was your job to get everything here without attracting attention. How’d that turn out, hm? We’re gonna have to move them when all’s said and done, you know. Where are we even going to-”
The two men withdrew from earshot down an unassuming passage leading farther below. As Ronnag’s first foot left the shadow, he noticed his clogs were soaked in blood. Instinctively he reached back into the darkness, and quickly felt the head of a man, stabbed through the neck not long ago and thrown lazily into a space between three large crates. He felt the emblem on the corpse’s armor, confirming his worst suspicions.
And as he rose, his blade repeated the message from before.